Passport to World Band Radio 2009

RNW archive

This article is part of the RNW archive. RNW is the former Radio Netherlands Worldwide or Wereldomroep, which was founded as the Dutch international public broadcaster in 1947. In 2011, the Dutch government decided to cut funding and shift RNW from the ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about RNW Media’s current activities can be found at

Larry Magne, et al.
No of pages: 528
Publisher: IBS North America, P.O. Box 300, Penns Park, PA 18943, USA. Tel: +1 (215) 598 9018. Fax: +1 (215) 598 3794.
E-mail: [email protected]
Web: (online ordering available)
Price: US$22.95 including fast priority mail shipping free in the US
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Japan only - ¥2,900 (¥3,900 including two Japanese-language supplements) Please order direct from: IBS Japan, 5-31-6 Tamanawa, Kamakura 247-0071, Japan; Fax +81 (467) 43-2167; E-mail [email protected]
Also available at up to 30% discount from some online bookstores!

The 25th edition of Passport to World Band Radio was published in October 2008. Passport describes itself as the World's #1 selling Shortwave Guide. It's aimed at the DXer and hobbyist who is interested in listening to a variety of different stations on shortwave, rather than one station in particular. During 2008, there were further significant cuts in hours of shortwave transmissions by international broadcasters. This is reflected in a further reduction in the total page count, down a further 32 pages to 528. But the good news is that this reduced page count has enabled the publisher to maintain the same price as last year, a bonus in these difficult economic times.


However, the future of the publication is currently under review. In July 2009, publisher Larry Magne said that the 26th edition, due to be published in October 2009 "is being held in limbo."

Receivers and antennas
Shortwave receiver reviews continue to occupy a major section - well over 100 pages - of the book, and since this also includes the so-called professional receivers, 30 pages are devoted to antennas, an aspect of shortwave reception that is all too often overlooked. Of course, many of the receivers included have been around for a number of years, but it's interesting to note that despite the generally held opinion that shortwave broadcasting to the developed world is in gradual decline, there are a number of new models too. But whereas 20 years ago most shortwave radios had famous brand names such as Sony and Philips, the new models mostly bear less illustrious names such as Kaito, Degen and Tecsun. Many of them originate in China, and some don't get very high ratings. Passport has always been willing to tell it like it is - words like ‘lousy' and phrases such as ‘sounds as cheap as it costs' are liberally used.

Passport continues to restrict its coverage to those stations that broadcast between 2 and 30 MHz. As such, it presents a very complete picture of all the broadcasting that takes place on the high frequencies, but misses out international broadcasting on all the other platforms. In the early days of the Internet, the publisher of Passport experimented with a separate guide to Internet broadcasting, but at that time many users were still restricted to dial-up connections, and the interest wasn't sufficient to make such a publication viable.

We believe the time has come for another attempt, as a number of countries have international broadcasts that are only receivable via the Internet. With broadband, WiFi receivers and lots of new devices coming onto the market, those young people interested in hearing news and features from around the world are no longer attracted to shortwave, with all its known limitations. The average age of those who still listen to shortwave in Europe and North America is on the rise.

Balanced content

But for the committed shortwave hobbyist, Passport does its job very well. It provides a good balance between technical information (reviews of receivers and antennas) and a detailed hour-by-hour guide to English-language programming from those international broadcasters that haven't yet abandoned shortwave.

Once again this year, two Radio Netherlands programmes are included in the annual "Ten of the Best" feature. We did advise Passport as soon as we made the decision to cancel our North American shortwave service in English, but to their credit the editors said that they would continue to include Radio Netherlands Worldwide as we still have English shortwave broadcasts beamed to Asia and Africa. The two RNW programmes included this year are Curious Orange and Earthbeat.

Reference sections

In addition to the hour-by-hour guide to "What's On Tonight", "Addresses Plus" tells you how to contact the stations, their websites, and details how to increase your chances of getting a reply. "Worldwide Broadcasts in English" lists the broadcasts on a station-by-station basis, while "Voices from Home " does the same for international expatriates looking for programmes in their native tongue.

The "Blue Pages" contain approximately 170 pages of listings by frequency, in graphical format, of every known shortwave broadcast at the time of printing. This listing includes transmitter sites, but of course, with the number of changes taking place these days, it's more and more difficult to keep information up-to-date between editions. A printed publication cannot, obviously, include temporary schedules, so anyone listening to BBC transmissions via the RNW Madagascar relay station in November 2008 would assume that the transmission site was Nakhon Sawan in Thailand, whereas in fact the station was off the air for more than a week due to flood damage, and Madagascar was used as one of the substitute sites.

Complementary sources
So for those needing confirmation of transmitter sites used for specific transmissions, the Blue Pages should be used in conjunction with reliable Internet sources. We recommend Glenn Hauser's DX Listening Digest, a new edition of which is produced once a week, and sometimes more frequently. For even faster access to news, there's a related Yahoo! Group that enables active listeners to see information before it's published.

There are always one or two in-depth feature articles in Passport. This year, veteran DXer Henrik Klemetz reports on upheavals in South America. There, says Passport, radio serves as a powerful tool for the Colombian army, paramilitary squads, Marxist rebels, missionaries and drug runners.

Highly recommended
Passport to World Band Radio has long been among the essential references that RNW recommends for those still interested in listening to shortwave broadcasts. The 2009 edition contains no surprises, but after a quarter of a century continues to perform its task admirably. We also recommend ordering direct from the publisher to ensure speedy delivery.


This review was done independently of the editors and publisher. Radio Netherlands Worldwide has no financial connection with either and provides the information above in good faith.